Renewable energies in Latin America: betting on the future

From 2010 to 2015, Latin America invested more than 80 billion dollars in renewable energy, but these investments aren't enough.

The transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy is one of the objectives of sustainable development. In Latin America, several countries have shown their commitment in the energy transition with investments in this sector, making it one of the most dynamic regions in the matter, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

From 2011 to 2030, energy consumption in Latin America will have increased by 80%, due to the demographic increase, the greater adoption of electrical appliances and higher industrial demand. Central America will be the subregion with the most considerable increment in energy demand, by 120%.

Energy transition in LatAm: a must

This increase in energy demand will make the production of energy with fossil fuels untenable in the long term. These fuels are the leading causes of the rise of greenhouse gas emissions, representing 60%; they also produce land degradation, pollute the water, and contribute to the acidification of the ocean.

The cost of fossil fuels is higher than the investment to move to clean energy. Floods, fires, and droughts are one of the indirect consequences of their use. Food security is also at risk, and they harm health because of air pollution. The scenario makes it mandatory to adopt clean energies to represent 80% of energy sources in 2050.

In recent years, Latin American countries have adopted measures to achieve this transition. For example, since 2007, the production of wind energy has increased by five. However, despite advances, fossil fuels account for more than 75% of energy production in the region, while renewable energy does not exceed 1%.

Different governments have sustained the commitment of the transition. In the Report on the Global State of Renewables 2018 showed an increase in investments in the region. In the 2018 report, Brazil and Mexico were the countries that stood out, with a similar investment of 6 billion dollars in each one.

Without considering these two countries, the investment of the region was 13.4 billion dollars. Chile and Argentina were the countries where there was a greater increase in the investment of clean energy. Recently, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera announced a decarbonization plan, which aims to close 28 coal plants in the country by 2040, without impacting the consumer price. The Global Climatescope report noted that “Chile’s exceptional natural resources, stable government, and healthy economy make it attractive for investment in clean energy. The government has set ambitious long-term goals to add clean energy capacity and has begun to implement policies to foster an environment in which renewable projects are more competitive. ” Other Latin American countries are already more advanced in the transition. In Uruguay, 90% of its energy sources are renewable.

Still not enough investment in clean energies

The pace of the energy transition is not yet enough to meet the objective of avoiding an increase in the global average temperature of 1.5º C. In some cases, there are setbacks. In 2018 the energy produced with coal increased when it had been reduced in previous years, according to data from the World Economic Forum, while the growth of renewable energies worldwide stagnated, according to data from the International Energy Agency. In Mexico, the administration led by López Obrador has relegated the production of renewable energies and has increased the investment in thermoelectric plants that work with fossil fuels. Coal will be the energy that will receive the most investment, 10,416 million pesos, according to the director of the Federal Electricity Commission, Manuel Bartlett. This decision can only be explained by the influence of Armando Guadiana, president of the energy committee in the Senate and businessman with coal mines.

The slow transition and setbacks have aroused concern among the population. Activists, such as Greta Thunberg, have criticized the lack of reliable measures by governments to stop the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and younger generations are very concerned about the situation, to the point of organizing global demonstrations demanding more significant progress for fulfilling the Paris agreement. Green companies and innovations in clean energy have a broad field of long-term growth.

Activist Greta Thunberg has inspired a global movement against climate change.